Many of the pieces recorded here show Busoni experimenting with bitonality, atonality, unusual scales and new piano sonorities, but the basic sensibility has more to do with Brahms, Liszt, or even Mozart than with Schoenberg or Stravinsky. For all the virtuosic brilliance, the character that emerges here is introverted, rarefied and inclined to brood on mortality. Even the sparkling canonic Allegro from Seven Short Pieces has its concluding ‘Death Motif. But the poetry is unique, and rarely morbid. The most obviously death-inspired movement, the ‘Berceuse’ from the Elegies (a shorter version of the better-known orchestral Berceuse elegiaque) is haunting in its subtle inflections of mood and colour.
Pianist Roland Pontinen plays with all the sensitivity and textural clarity the music requires. There’s a sharp intellectual focus, but with enough respect for the Busoni who remains mysterious and enigmatic at core. Stephen Johnson
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